Toronto Maple Leafs: History suggests strong cup chance

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: The Toronto Maple Leafs bench congratulates Nikita Zaitsev
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: The Toronto Maple Leafs bench congratulates Nikita Zaitsev /

The Toronto Maple Leafs will finish the regular season third in the Atlantic Division, and recent history suggests this is a positive heading into the playoffs.

Teams that are typically viewed as favourites to lift the coveted Stanley Cup often win their division or earn awards such as the President’s Trophy – awarded to the franchise with the most points at the end of the regular season. However, there is hope for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they prepare for this season’s playoffs.

In recent years, teams ending the regular season at the top have found it very difficult to go the distance and win the biggest prize in hockey.

Only three teams have won the Stanley Cup over the past six seasons – the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and L.A. Kings.

During those six seasons, only once did the winning team finish top in their division – the 2012/13 Blackhawk that came first in the Central Division.

More from Toronto Maple Leafs

Of the remaining five seasons, the winning team came second in their division on just two occasions (both 16/17 and 15/16 Penguins) while the other three finished the regular season in third place in their division (14/15 Blackhawks, 13/14 Kings, 11/12 Kings).

With the Leafs guaranteed third place with at least 103 points this year (105 if they win their final game versus Montreal), things might be far more optimistic heading into the playoffs.

The Leafs’ first-round exit last season was disappointing but expected. This season, however, they will be hoping to push further in the playoffs and become a regular contender for many years.

Their first-round opponents this year will be either the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning, with the former a much more appealing opponent for the Leafs.

If the Leafs overcome their first-round opponent, they will take one step closer to the big prize.

For the Leafs to continue that positive run, taking a look at the past few seasons could do much to buoy the team and give them the confidence to play without fear – which saw them put up a strong showing against the Washington Capitals last year.

A confident team with the kind of talent the Leafs have could go far in the playoffs, with plenty of surprises each and every season – such as the Ottawa Senators coming within a goal of making the finals and the Vegas Golden Knights storming through their first ever regular season.

This season has been full of records for the Leafs, including most wins and most points in a season, first season in over a decade with two 50+ point-producing defencemen and the first season since 1998/99 to have six players with 20 or more goals in a season.

The Leafs will no doubt be heading into the playoffs with plenty of confidence so, given recent history, why can’t they win it all?

Next: 4 Leafs draft targets - April update

What do you think Toronto Maple Leafs fans? Will history continue to favour a team finishing lower in the regular season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.